Lawrence denies woman's claims regarding zoning issue - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Lawrence denies woman's claims regarding zoning issue

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LAWRENCE, KS (KCTV) -

The homeless. Domestic violence victims. Service members relocating. Desperate families.

Debbie Nall has thrown open the doors to her three-story house to these individuals and more. She says she is now looking to sell her home and move because the city of Lawrence is threatening big fines if she continues to help out the less fortunate.

But city of Lawrence officials flatly denied that on Monday. They said they are not threatening prosecution or legal action against Nall.

Megan Gilliland, spokeswoman for the city of Lawrence, said Nall was the subject of an over-occupancy complaint in 2011.

"The city worked with Ms. Nall at that time to come into compliance with the city's ordinance and no further action has been taken," Gilliland said in an email to KCTV5. "The city does not have an active case against Ms. Nall or the property mentioned in the story."

She said city officials are not threatening legal action against Nall.

Lawrence has an ordinance that says residents in a single-family zoned neighborhood cannot have more than three unrelated guests in their home over a 90-day period.  Nall claimed last week that city officials said if she doesn't stop that they are going to issue hefty fines.

Nall said the city recently cited her. She says two of the guests mentioned in the citation were sergeants based at Fort Leavenworth who are in between relocations.

"I've lived here 26 years. From the time I've lived here, I've taken in over 90 people," Nall said.

Her home has six rooms that hold up to eight people in addition to her own bedroom and an office with a sofa bed. She said she offers a comfy bed to anyone needing a warm place to say. She dishes up food for her guests daily.

"Usually it's abused women, displaced women or people who have gotten out of the hospital who don't want to die in the hospital," she said. "If people only knew the blessing that comes out of it."

Shelters, churches and other nonprofits call Nall when they have someone needing a place to stay. Nall said she lets people stay as long as they need until they get back on their feet.

"These are her guests. The house is not overflowing. If you have eight bedrooms, own your home, how can the city impose fines for opening your home to guests?" her daughter wrote to KCTV. "Not renters. She takes no money. She asks for no help. She has worked her whole life to pay her house off and now the city fines her heavily for opening her doors."

Nall nearly broke down when discussing the situation. She hopes the news coverage can soften the hard hearts at city hall against her.

While some neighbors think her efforts shouldn't be done in a residential neighborhood, others say they don't have an issue with what she is doing.

"I'm not against the ordinance. I just wish they would add an amendment so I can continue to do what I'm doing,'" Nall said.

Because Lawrence is a college town, there are areas in which you can have multiple residents and guests in a residential area, but Nall's neighborhood is not one of them.

Scott McCullough, director of Planning and Development Services, told KCTV5 that whether rent is charged is irrelevant to the city's regulation regarding the number of occupants. The renting aspect comes into play on whether approval is needed to operate a home as a shelter, hotel or bed and breakfast. 

"The code values are related, in part, due to the student population in Lawrence, but are typical of many cities that place value in creating 'good neighbor' codes to benefit neighborhoods," McCullough wrote in an email.

Violations can result in a fine of $10 to $500 and a six-month jail sentence.

Copyright 2013 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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